Q: President Mahinda Rajapaksa will be the next Chairperson of CHOGM. Please comment.
A: In a few days CHOGM will take place in Colombo, Sri Lanka. It will be a historical event that will go down in world history. It is true that the world is changing and the world economic order is also in the process of realignment. Asia holds the key to a vibrant growth, investment, progress for the largest population living across the world. This century belongs to us.
Sri Lanka not only facilitating to host CHOGM but our President Mahinda Rajapaksa will become the Chair of the Commonwealth until the next summit which is very important in the process of International relations etc. Hosting CHOGM will provide us a great opportunity further dialogue, understanding and mutual exchange through the democratic process, which is the foundation for the Commonwealth’s future progress.
Q: Local and foreign anti Sri Lankan elements are trying their best to bring the country and the Government into disrepute. What will be their next move on the threshold of CHOGM?
A: This is a well known fact to the whole world. Sri Lankans were able to protect the country from division and separatism. We have been able to defeat the most ruthless terrorist organization in the world which had been banned by many countries in the world. Most of the Western countries and India banned the LTTE. We have restored democracy in the areas that were under terrorism and dictatorship.
Victory for democracy and democratically elected representation of those areas is a part of Sri Lanka’s development and progress today. This has been continually obstructed by reactionary conspiratorial elements from abroad. They have been fed, nurtured and financed to destabilize Sri Lanka, but, they failed. But our President has made it very clear. The Commonwealth is an International Conference. Whatever the criticism, even those based on falsehood, those who come would be able to see the development, progress and achievements of Sri Lanka. All ethnicities in Sri Lanka play their role of citizenship. Therefore, the elements who tried to tarnish the image of Sri Lanka could not achieve their targets.
Q: The opposition always looks at CHOGM from a negative point of view and accuses the Government for spending on CHOGM. Your comments please.
A: If the Opposition was in power and they got the same opportunity, they would not have rejected it. They would have gone ahead. What is invested in infrastructure will be there for the use of the country and it will be a part of the economy. Our country will get good exposure in the eyes of the world by our hosting CHOGM. Investors, trading partners, service providers will be able to establish new relationships with Sri Lanka. Therefore, the opposition’s criticism has very little credence. The summits of Heads of State, business and investors, youth, NGOs will provide the ideal platform for Sri Lanka to strengthen ties and establish new and strong partnerships with other nations.
Q: Canada will not attend CHOGM and India was being constantly pressurized by pro LTTE elements to boycott CHOGM. What will be the impact of this on CHOGM?
A: It is clear that the Indian delegation will be present at CHOGM. It was very clear by the statement made by its External Affairs Minister. Within India, there are various pro- LTTE elements who are trying to create various problems. But, the Indian central government remains committed.
When we are all committed to democracy, the most valuable element is dialogue, even to oppose one should sit down and have a dialogue. But, various lobbies in Canada continue to pressurize the political establishment in Canada.
Q: Only you had been given the opportunity to address the opening ceremony of SACOSAN-V held in Kathmandu, Nepal recently. How you feel about this opportunity?
A: SACOSAN-V was held in Kathmandu, Nepal takes over the chair from Sri Lanka which hosted SACOSAN-IV in Colombo. It is an important conference on sanitation in South Asian countries. Sanitation plays an important role in better health and better standards of living. Thousands die and many thousands suffer without proper sanitation facilities. Billions are wasted for treatment for simple illnesses that could be overcome by nations having sanitation facilities for all.
Sri Lanka’s experience is seen as very valuable and discussed at SACOSAN-V and as Sri Lankan Minister who is in charge of the subject, I appreciate the importance given to Sri Lanka by inviting me to be the only Minister made a speech at the opening ceremony of the conference attended by Nepal Vice President. I especially included the lady Mayor of Jaffna and the Mayor of Puttalam in the Sri Lanka delegation to SACOSAN-V.
Q: What is the reason behind Sri Lanka’s success in improving water and sanitation facilities?
A: Sri Lanka has a long history of consistent health and public health program. Also improving access to water and sanitation. We have achieved over 90 per cent access to water and over 86 per cent access to good sanitation. Our programs continue as Sri Lanka has been recognised as the success story in South East Asia. The investment by the Sri Lankan Government, allocation through the budget, monitoring of investments, grass roots level approach has made Sri Lanka the role model in this field.
Q: Contamination of drinking water and the water bill are two hot topics which always invites the attention of the public. Please comment.
A: Contamination of drinking water is caused by other elements, that encroaches upon water. Therefore, the approach of some institutions and the role they must play according to the laws and regulations should be clearly laid out to them. We must understand urbanization, industrialization, lead to environmental changes. In Sri Lanka too, like in any parts of the world, different soil, climatic conditions should be monitored as a coordinated mechanism with the relevant agencies working together. My ministry and the Water Supply and Drainage Board, therefore continually need other agencies to coordinate.
Pipe borne treated water given to the people is guaranteed according to set down norms. Ground water and other sources have to follow as I mentioned above. The water bill is one of the lowest. President Rajapaksa and his Government has always advised that they absorb the maximum and put the least burden on the people. This example has been set with the Water Board.
Treated drinking water is costly and should be used sparingly and not for watering plants, washing clothes, vehicles etc. We have to save treated drinking water. We have to find alternatives for tasks that do not need treated drinking water. Consumers should understand this. The Water Board supplies water at a price over 100 times lower than the bottled water available in the market.